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Speech: 6th MCLE Accredited National Convention of Public Attorneys

September 21, 2017

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
6th MCLE Accredited National Convention of Public Attorneys
21 September 2017 | Manila Hotel

 

Foremost, I wish to thank the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) led by the Chief Public Attorney, Dr. Persida Rueda-Acosta for this recognition.

 

The greater honor, however, is to be invited to speak before our public attorneys who have an indispensable role in ensuring justice for the poor, weak and vulnerable. I salute all of you for choosing the path of public service, which is a tireless and usually thankless job.

 

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance who reviews how government agencies have been spending public funds, I realize that we really cannot sleep on our jobs as public servants because every hour, every day of delay in the provision of our services could mean life or death for the oppressed, the marginalized and the underprivileged.

 

Imagine a poor father making ends meet who is wrongly accused of a crime. For a PAO lawyer, he could be just one of those usual clients, interviewing him could be part of just another normal routine. But for him, every hour he waits, every day he spends in jail waiting for justice to be served could mean daily hunger for his family.

 

That is how important your mandate is. That is how we should value public service. We should do our duty for the people and our country as if our life depended on it every single day.

 

I call on all of you, our PAO lawyers, never to lose the passion for public service, to prioritize the truly indigent and most vulnerable, and to ensure that the law dispenses justice for all.

 

For my part, I commit my support to the Public Attorney’s Office. I will do my best in ensuring that we address your needs through the budget and other legislation.

 

In fact, I warmly welcomed the court ruling this year ordering the release of the retirement benefits of PAO lawyers. It is but fitting to give our retired public attorneys, who have spent many years providing legal services to indigent litigants, the benefits they rightfully deserve.

 

As affirmation of our support, we have already approved in the committee level the proposed 2018 budget of PAO under the Department of Justice, which includes among others, funding for the creation of new lawyer positions in the PAO; as well as the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) where the P964.931 million budget for the new PAO-Central Office Building is lodged. We will ensure that this will be approved in the final version of the 2018 national budget to address the lack of public lawyers and the serious congestion problem of PAO Central Office.

 

Moreover, I wish to reiterate my support for PAO’s assistance to children and women, who are among the most vulnerable members of our society. I am glad that the PAO continuously conducts trainings and seminars on gender and development (GAD) for public attorneys and support staff.

 

Today, you are about to complete your Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) for this year. I am optimistic that this will reinvigorate weary minds and spirits. Yes, we have a tireless and thankless job, but the fact that you chose this path only means that it is in your heart to serve. For that, I will never get tire of thanking all of you.

 

More power to all our public lawyers and congratulations to PAO for this successful convention.